On being tempted

Frances writes on next Sunday’s Readings :- Our Old Testament reading, (Deuteronomy 26:4-10), differs significantly from that of our Gospel, (Luke 4:1-13). In Deuteronomy, the picture painted by the writers of the 7th century BC, just before the fall of the country to the Babylonians, is full of the rich heritage of Israel. It speaks of their foundation myth; a rags-to-riches story in which a poor, tiny people became great and above all, powerful through their loyalty to God. It is a fine piece of Jewish propaganda at a time of religious reform by a king and temple, bent on reinvigorating the faith and state, at a time of religious decay and threat from outsiders. Its message is clear, national success and power lies in worship and obedience to the God of Israel, and will make them productive and powerful.

By way of vivid contrast our Gospel appears to address an entirely different situation, and indeed even a people who are encouraged to adopt quite different values, although true worship of God is never in doubt. Luke’s story of the Temptations of Christ does not opt for this age-old materialistic vision of the people with their hold on land, Temple and Laws, and their relationship with God with its accepted pathway to control over their environment. On the contrary, it is precisely this promise of physical success which is definitively and resolutely rejected by Jesus. The one in the entire universe who could have turned stones into bread; or demanded eternal power over all the kingdoms of the world, and secured his own personal protection from any danger, deliberately rejects this course of action.

Why? Surely the reason is that if he had accepted the suggestions of the Devil he would have ceased to be one of us. The whole point of the Incarnation is precisely this – God the Son, eternally one with the Father becomes a human being for our salvation. In doing so he, the eternal one who is not subject to thirst, pain or needs of any kind, takes on the state whereby he can be hungry; he rejects the control over situations which as God he could have, and instead assumes the human state in which he will know himself to be powerless and, in the end; the final temptation, in which he will be entirely unprotected and suffer the vilest of deaths. No, Jesus is one of us, one with us and lives out this solidarity to the finish, on the cross.

We must not assume that these temptations were unreal, or easily conquered by Jesus, for the point is surely that they are ones that afflict us all too. What parent in the Third World would not seize this power to convert stones into bread to feed his children? What mortgage strapped family would not wish for such a heaven-sent solution to financial problems? What family, watching a sick member dying would not wish for control over the world’s elements, or, faced by the intractability of other warring nations, would not long for the power to control them? As we look at Syria, that ancient country and the birthplace of the Saviour, who would not long to secure its eternal protection? And we too, who find the onset of old age and fragility of body and mind, would we not wish for the power to prevent such loss and the difficulties it brings? But to have those powers would mean we were no longer human.

The remarkable Aung San Suu Kyi recently remarked on Desert Island Discs, that once you have chosen your path you have to stick to it, and there is little point weighing the cost of your choices or getting het-up about the consequences.

This surely is the point Paul makes in Romans (10:8-13). We who have made our decision for Christ must live it out to the end. That faith “Is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart.” In other words, our commitment to the gospel of Christ is a part of our very make-up; it is what we now are at the core of our being. This does not mean that we, like Jesus will not be tempted, for indeed we will; by other people; by the circumstances of our lives; by the very elements of the universe; but, like Jesus, we can remain true to our calling in the knowledge that he will never desert us.

This surely is the point Paul makes in Romans (10:8-13). We who have made our decision for Christ must live it out to the end. That faith “Is very near to you, it is on your lips and in your heart.” In other words, our commitment to the gospel of Christ is a part of our very make-up; it is what we now are at the core of our being. This does not mean that we, like Jesus will not be tempted, for indeed we will; by other people; by the circumstances of our lives; by the very elements of the universe; but, like Jesus, we can remain true to our calling in the knowledge that he will never desert us.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s